Announcing his retirement from parliamentary politics, former Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said that 'he had been proud to serve.' But who, exactly, did he serve? 

IN THE SAME WEEK that Labour leader Chris Hipkins was praising former Finance Minister Grant Robertson for a job well done, it has been revealed that child poverty significantly increased for the year to June 2023 and during Labour's last year in office. The number of children in homes classified as experiencing material hardship increased 2 percent to 12.5 percent compared with the year to June 2022. 

It was left to former Minister for Social Development and Employment, Carmel Sepuloni, to explain the figures. She could not. 'We threw everything at the problem', she insisted. This is far from being true.

We can detail the figures and haggle over the statistics, but they often only help to obscure the forest from the trees. The unvarnished truth is that, despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promising to lead a government focused on economic transformation, very little changed. The Labour Government, supported by the Green's, merely tinkered. Working people were, again, like Oliver Twist, left pleading for more. The new child poverty figures only serve to underline the fact that the Labour Government continued to deliver out thin gruel for the working class its so-called 'socialist' MPs claimed to represent.

And, presiding over it all, was Finance Minister Grant Robertson. While he wrote, in a nod to New Zealand's myth of egalitarianism, that he wanted to give everyone 'a fair suck of the sav', in reality he was a resolute defender of the neoliberal status quo. This was fully in evidence during the Covid pandemic. 

Capitalism can only survive through perpetual motion, and the pandemic threatened to bring the whole system tumbling down. Robertson rode to its rescue, providing unlimited support to big businesses and financial institutions. In stark contrast, working people and the poor received next to nothing.

As commentator Bernard Hickey observed in January 2022:

'The Labour Government, supported by the Greens, presided over policies that accidentally on purpose engineered the biggest transfer of wealth to asset owners from current and future renters in the history of New Zealand...the Government’s Covid policies made the rich almost $1t richer, while the poor were allowed to get $400m further in debt to the Government itself, and were forced to apply for more than twice as many food parcels in our largest city.'

Robertson helped to save the system and little wonder he was warmly welcomed into corporate boardrooms throughout the country. But he also unintentionally helped to expose the cracks in a creaking and failing economic system. These new fragilities have been exposed by a cost-of-living crisis. But it is only a cost-of-living crisis for those who can least afford it. The corporate sector continues to record big profits.

This is the economic legacy of Grant Robertson.


IN 2022 THE late Ricky Houghton of the Korowai Trust warned that civil disobedience may well become the only viable option for people unable to survive any other way.

'The people who 'have-not' will be taking what they need - and food is a basic human right - they will be taking from those that have. It has to be fixed; the government has to intervene.'

The difficulty is that for more than four decades, the state has continued to withdraw from doing the things that support a healthy society and a vibrant economy, all in the name of capital.

The new National-led coalition government will be no different than the neoliberal governments that have come before it. But as it drives more people into poverty, the anger and frustration in the community will continue to mount. It is a powder keg waiting to explode and that's likely to happen when the Government least expects it. 


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated.